Thanks to the rise of internet shopping and accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, auto buying has evolved.
Long gone are the days when you needed to worry about haggling over prices. Even if you’ve bought a car within the past five years, you’ll find things have changed. Today, it’s all about convenience. Even so, it can sometimes be tricky finding the right deal for you.
Follow these tips for your best bet at making your auto purchase experience smoother than ever.
Use a search tool to locate and study your vehicle
When you arrive at a car dealership, you’ve essentially limited yourself to what they have on the lot — if you want your new vehicle anytime soon, that is. Don’t make the mistake of visiting a dealer without already knowing what they have in stock.
Luckily, there’s an easy way you can keep track: visit CoastHills AutoSMART.
With AutoSMART, you can see the available stock at trusted and verified dealerships from your local area up to 250 miles away, even nationwide. Filter your search by make, model, trim, color and features. If you’re not sure exactly what car you want, you can filter by vehicle type, fuel efficiency and more. Sort by price to see the most affordable option.
Don’t see the options you’re looking for? Click the “build” button and choose the make, model, trims, styles and options for yourself. Once you’ve built your dream car, you can even contact a dealer, automatically forward your selections and have the vehicle ordered from the factory. You might have to be willing to wait a few months for that option, however.
If you’ve located a vehicle you want that’s in stock, click or tap the “Contact” button on the AutoSMART listing page. If you’ve already gotten your pre-approval, make sure to click yes when asked if you are pre-approved by CoastHills, and let them know you’re ready to buy.
Speaking of financing
When cars are selling and inventory is low, there are likely to be fewer sales, year-end closeouts and rebates, meaning discounts are going to be hard to come by. You need to know exactly how much you can afford and get some leverage for getting the best price on financing.
Before you contact a dealer or visit a showroom, apply for an auto loan with your trusted financial institution to get pre-approved. That way, you’ll know how high you can go on price, what your potential monthly payments would be, and you won’t have to settle for any dealer financing deals that could cost you more in interest.
At CoastHills, you can apply online and receive a decision in as little as five minutes. Plus, once approved, CoastHills will share your information with car dealers in the Credit Union Direct Lending program through its Smart Approval process. That’s nearly 2,000 auto dealerships in California and more than 15,600 nationwide. Visit one, and you won’t have to input your application information again, cutting down on time and getting you back on the road in your new car quicker.
Plus, whether you apply online or at your favorite branch, knowing your creditworthiness helps you approach the auto shopping process armed with information and bargaining power.
Be clear about the final price
There’s another thing you need to do before you head over to the dealership. Agree on the final total price. The price you see advertised is not the full cost of the car. Taxes and fees will typically tack on an additional 10 percent.
You want to know the price “out the door.” Sometimes shortened to OTD, the out-the-door price will be the total it will take to drive off the lot with your new vehicle. You’ll have to reach that amount through any combination of down payment, trade-in and financing.
Agreeing on an OTD price in advance keeps you from being caught off guard when you sign your purchase agreement.
Know the value of your trade in
You definitely want to research the car you’re planning to buy, but don’t neglect the car you already have, especially if you’re expecting to trade it in.
Low inventory also extends to used vehicle stock, so while new car dealers have the leverage on pricing in a hot market, you have the leverage on the price of your trade-in. Make sure to browse AutoSMART listings for the make, model, trim and mileage of your current car.
On the search page for used cars, scroll to the bottom and click the link for Kelley Blue Book. You’ll be able to enter information about your trade-in directly in AutoSMART and will instantly receive an estimate of what your car is worth. That will help you get a sense for what you could try to sell it for.
The dealer will not offer you full price on your trade in, but you may be surprised how much more your used car is worth compared to a year ago.
Despite any challenges with inventory, it’s easier than ever to shop for and buy a car right from your computer or mobile device. You may have to look a little farther away or wait a little longer to find the exact vehicle you want, but if you follow the tips above, most of the work can be done at your own pace and without even leaving your home.